Spokane International Airport and the Spokane Airport Tenant Association claim a controversial airport hangar use policy proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration has significant flaws.
The policy outlines the use of hangars at any airport that receives federal grants. It specifically outlines regulations for the use of hangars for non-aeronautical purposes. FAA has closed the commenting period on the proposed changes and hasn’t taken any other action yet.
“It’s a really broad-based policy that’s seeking to regulate what ways hangars can be used at airports, as well as the size of hangars and the activities that go on inside of them,” says Larry Krauter, CEO of Spokane International Airport.
There are roughly 200 hangars between the Spokane International Airport and Felts Field that could be affected by this policy, Krauter says. At this point, there isn’t a timeline for implementing the policy, he says.
“I think the FAA did not anticipate that there would be so many comments made,” he says. “I think they’re going to take quite some time to consider these comments before coming out with a new policy. It could take months.”
Marcia Alexander-Adams, a Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman for the FAA, confirms that the agency currently is reviewing all of the comments on the policy and doesn’t have any further remarks at this time.
Krauter says the hangars are usually under multiple ownerships, including a mix of private and public owners. That the FAA is trying to regulate privately-owned hangars is worrisome, he says.
“That’s where, in particular, some of the tenant associations around the country are very concerned,” he says. “A lot of hangars were developed with private funds.”
Blake McKinley, a member of the Spokane Airport Tenant Association’s board of directors and the author of a letter it has written to the FAA, describes the policy as an overreach. In his letter, McKinley says, “The bottom line is that hangar use can and should be locally administered.”
Krauter says that the policy, as proposed, would require the airport to develop and adopt a hangar use program that followed the federal policy, and perform inspections on the hangars.
“We may walk in and someone may have a welding machine in their hangar, and we have to determine is that okay or not,” he says. “It’s micromanagement at a significant level.”
The policy also seeks to make certain portions of the FAA’s Airport Compliance Manual binding to airport employees who aren’t currently regulated by the FAA, Krauter says.
“They start taking part of this manual, and are trying to turn it into law and regulation without going through the proper process,” he says. “This is a problem that has been occurring with the FAA more frequently in the last several years.”
Specifically, the hangar use policy would require airports to regulate hangers being used as residences, something the airport sees as too subjective and difficult to define.
The policy also would require the airport to submit a request with the FAA to lease a hangar for non-aeronautical uses, Krauter says.
“In many airports, there may be sufficient capacity that, in order to earn some money, airports allow non-aeronautical use,” he says. “They could store boats in there, or bicycles, or you name it. So there’s an element of that, and the FAA is trying to develop a policy of how it will all work.”
Krauter says the airport has an obligation to ensure that hangars leased for non-aeronautical uses aren’t being taken away from aeronautical uses. Beyond that, however, the federal agency shouldn’t be involved, he says.
“It’s an overreach of substantial magnitude,” he says.
Krauter also says the policy’s definition of what are authorized aeronautical uses is inadequate. The policy defines authorized aeronautical uses as the storage of operational aircraft, the final assembly of aircraft, and the short-term storage of nonoperational aircraft for maintenance, repair, or refurbishment.
This list is missing many FAA-recognized aeronautical activities, Krauter says. The agency has previously defined aeronautical activity as, “Any activity that involves, makes possible, or is required for the operation of aircraft or that contributes to or is required for the safety of such operations ...”
The definition goes on to say aeronautical activities include general and corporate aviation, air taxi and charter operations, pilot training, crop dusting, aerial advertising, sale of aircraft parts, and more.
“Why would they not use that definition?” Krauter says. “It’s the one we’ve been working with for a very long time … there’s a whole lot of other things they should be considering aeronautical activities. A lot of it centers on aeronautical assembly projects.”
The FAA’s authorized aeronautical uses list does include the final assembly of aircraft, but Krauter says that is an obscure term that could mean a lot of different things.
“Do they want people to build the airplane in their garage or someplace and then bring it to the airport and make minor assembly adjustments?” he says. “Again, we just don’t know what they mean by that. It’s been interpreted as being against assembling aircraft from kits from beginning to end in the hangars.”
McKinley’s letter also addresses the definition of aeronautical activity, specifically as it relates to the construction of aircraft.
“Only the environment found at our nation’s airports, where other builders are constructing aircraft, creates a synergism which promotes safety over the individual who is constructing their aircraft in isolation,” he says in the letter. “The FAA’s perspective that building aircraft components is non-aviation (activity) is illogical and incomprehensible.”
McKinley’s letter also contends that another part of the agency’s definition of authorized uses, the short-term storage of nonoperational aircraft for maintenance or repair, is outside its authority.
“The FAA has no business stipulating either a soft, hard, or arbitrary timeline for repair, maintenance, or refurbishment,” his letter says.
Repairs and such take time, especially when parts need to be ordered, McKinley’s letter says.
The airport also states that the FAA’s proposed policy would create much more paperwork and documentation requirements for the airport, which would violate the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980.
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